A California family is suing Petco after their 10-year old son Aidan Pankey died from an infection contracted through his pet rat. The family’s lawsuit alleges that Petco was negligent in failing to test the rat, and also says that they were not fully informed about the risks before purchasing it.
According to ABC 10, Aidan went with his grandmother Sharon to a Petco in Carmel Mountain to find a mate for his female pet rat Oreo. He found a black male rat named Alex and brought him home. “One of the things he loved most, his rat, ended up in him dying because the rat we bought, we found out later, had Rat-bite fever,” Sharon said to ABC 10. Just weeks later, he woke up feeling ill and was rushed to the hospital with stomach pains. According to the family’s lawsuit, he was pale, lethargic and had a difficult time walking. He died on the morning of June 12, 2013 of streptobacillus moniliformis, or rat-bite fever.
Rat-bite fever is spread through a scratch or through simply handling rats, mice, gerbils and other infected rodents, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The agency says that the disease is rarely fatal, but anyone working or living with them has a higher risk of contracting it.
ABC 10, who interviewed the Pankeys, reported that Aidan’s death has been traumatic for the family. Andrew Pankey, Aidan’s father, says that he is unable to eat or sleep, and has been forced to take a leave of absence from work. “He was my family,” Andrew said to ABC 10. “I’m probably down 30 to 35 pounds since then. I don’t even get hungry. I just go until I pass out.”
The family is suing for an undisclosed amount to get justice for what happened to their son and to bring awareness to rat-bite fever, a disease they never even heard of before this tragedy. Petco makes their customers sign a waiver form when they buy pets, but legal experts say that this might not hold up in the court of law. Even though the form is telling buyers about the risks, the form might not list all of the risks.